By Bryan Foti
Last Week: (1-4)
After skipping Week 3, we are back with another edition of picks for Week 4 of the College Football season. Last week conference play started in the ACC and SEC. This week the Big 10 and PAC 12 take center stage as their league play begins. Lets take a look at some key matchups this week.
#12 Georgia at #23 Ole Miss
Time: Saturday, 12 p.m. EST.
Location: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
Line: Ole Miss -7
Frustration has to be the word being used in Oxford after the first three weeks of the season. Ole Miss has now blown two double-digit leads to Top 5 opponents to start their season.
Last week the Rebels raced out to a 24-3 lead against Alabama, only to see the Tide storm back and win 48-43.
Ole Miss Head Coach, Hugh Freeze, is now faced with the challenge of how to correct the mistakes the Rebels have made early in the season. He needs his quarterback, Chad Kelly, to cut down on the turnovers. Kelly had a brutal second half last week. He was sacked and fumbled the ball, which allowed Alabama to scoop and score to tie up the game. Later in the game Kelly threw a pick-six, which essentially iced the game for the Tide.
If the Rebels want to win games in the SEC this year they have to cut back on their turnovers.
On the other side the Bulldogs come into this game (3-0), but their last two wins have not come easy. Georgia squeaked by Missouri last week in their SEC opener 28-27, and two weeks ago they held on to beat FCS school Nicholls 26-24.
True Freshman Jacob Eason now runs the Bulldogs offense and he took all of the snaps last week in their SEC Opener. However, the Dawgs’ main weapon on offense is Nick Chubb. Chubb has been held in check after his breakout performance in Week 1 against North Carolina. Last week he did not rush for a touchdown and only gained 63 yards. Ole Miss’ defensive line has excellent pass rushers, however, they are not the best when it comes to stopping the run. There should be some holes for Chubb to run through.
With that being said, Ole Miss still is the more talented team. Eason is still a true freshman, so you can’t expect him to carry Georgia all by himself. If the Bulldogs want to have a chance they need a big game from Chubb.
Ole Miss will win this game. The Rebels should be fired up about losing to two Top 5 teams. They have seen their ranking drop to 23rd in the country. They are a better team than Georgia who is ranked 12th. That should have them raring to go, plus they are at home. Give me Ole Miss and lay the points.
Final: Ole Miss 42, Georgia 34
#11 Wisconsin at #8 Michigan State.
Time: Saturday, 12 p.m. EST.
Location: Spartan Stadium
Line: Michigan St. -5.5
Michigan State is riding high after beating Notre Dame last week in South Bend. We haven’t seen much of Michigan State this year because they had a bye week before they played Notre Dame and in Week 1 they opened up on a Friday night against Furman.
Mark Dantonio’s team still boasts a powerful defense that helped them reach the College Football Playoff a season ago.
On offense the running game is the strength of the Spartans. Running Back LJ Scott is back for another season. He rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown in the win against the Irish a week ago.
Running Back Gerald Holmes also had a big day for Michigan State last week. He scored two touchdowns and rushed for a 100 yards. Holmes was playing with a heavy heart as his grandmother passed away last Friday night, so it was an emotional game for him. Michigan State will need a productive running game if they want to win their conference opener.
Wisconsin comes into this Big 10 matchup with a record of (3-0.) After an impressive opening day win against LSU and a blow out win over Akron two weeks ago, the Badgers struggled last week. They held on to beat Georgia State 23-17.
Badger Head Coach, Paul Chryst, enters his second season as the coach of Wisconsin. It will be the first time he faces Michigan State. The two teams have not played each other since the 2012 season.
The Badgers like to run the football, too. Running back Corey Clement is the Badgers top rusher. He is listed as questionable to play on Saturday. Clement sprained his ankle in the Akron game and was held out of the game last week. Wisconsin will look to him to lead the ground attack. Dare Ogunbowale and Bradrick Shaw got the majority of the carries last week. Look for them to play a role in this game as well.
Wisconsin has struggled to score points in two of their first three games this season. They are playing a very talented defense on the road this weekend and their best running back is banged up. The Spartans should take care of business in this game. They will control the time of possession because they will run the ball effectively against the Badgers. The Spartan defense will keep the Badgers out of the end zone for most of the afternoon. Give me Sparty. This is a lock.
Final: Michigan State 30, Wisconsin 17
#19 Florida at #14 Tennessee
Time: Saturday 3:30 p.m. EST.
Location: Neyland Stadium
Line: Tennessee -6.5
This is a must watch game on CBS Saturday afternoon. Butch Jones and the Volunteers have all the talent in the world and there is no reason why they shouldn’t be playing in the SEC title game this December. However, Tennessee always seems to crumble in big moments.
Josh Dobbs will try to change that as Tennessee opens conference play at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee looked good in its win over Virginia Tech, but struggled in wins over Appalachian St. and Ohio.
Last season Florida beat Tennessee by erasing a 13-point fourth quarter Volunteer lead. Tennessee had a chance to win the game but Aaron Medley missed a game-winning field goal attempt.
Dobbs was the best player on the field for Tennessee in the game last season. He rushed for over 100 yards and managed the game well. He will need to do more if they want to win this year, especially through the air. Dobbs did not throw a touchdown pass in the game a year ago.
Jim McElwain’s group comes into this game missing a big piece. Quarterback Luke Del Rio sprained his knee in the win over North Texas and will not play in this game. Florida could also be without top wide receiver Antonio Callaway, who missed last week’s game with a quad injury. If Callaway can’t go the Gators could be in big trouble.
Florida will turn to Austin Appleby who will be making his first start as a Gator.
The Vols have not beaten Florida in 11 years. If they want to win this time around they will have to keep their emotions in check and not make big mistakes. Dobbs has been known to turn the ball over and he will be facing a very talented defense Saturday afternoon.
So how will the game play out? It should be a very tight contest. Tennessee should be able to make some plays against the Florida defense. Dobbs should be in line for a big day. However, don’t sleep on Florida in this one since no one seems to be giving them a chance to win. McElwain is a great motivator and will have the Gators ready to go. Tennessee will snap the streak of eleven straight losses, but it won’t be easy – it never is with this team. Tennessee wins, but take the Gators and the points.
Final Tennessee 23, Florida 20
#7 Stanford at UCLA
Time: Saturday 8:00 p.m. EST
Location: Rose Bowl
Line: Stanford -3
For David Shaw’s team this is the first of a tough four-game stretch. Three of Stanford’s next four games will be on the road. The first one features a primetime matchup against Jim Mora’s UCLA Bruins.
Heisman candidate Christian McCaffrey is the show for the Cardinal. So far he has not disappointed in the first two games of the season. He had 172 yards rushing in the win over USC last week, which included a rushing touchdown. On top of that, he caught three balls for 73 yards including a touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Burns.
Stanford’s defense has looked strong during the first two weeks of the season. They allowed 13 points in a win over Kansas St. and followed it up by giving up 10 to the Trojans last week. The strength of the Cardinal defense is in the secondary. Sophomore Quenton Meeks has played well this year. He had a pick against the Wildcats in the opener and then did a fine job in coverage last week against USC.
The matchup to watch in this game is simple: it’s UCLA’s Quarterback Josh Rosen vs. the Stanford secondary. Rosen played well in the opener against Texas A & M, but threw a crucial interception that forced overtime late in that game. The Bruins eventually lost. Since then they have won their next two. Last week Rosen threw for over 300 yards and a touchdown pass in the win over BYU. Look for Rosen to have a big day at home.
This game is simple to predict since it comes down to two things for UCLA.
Can they stop McCaffrey? They couldn’t do it last year
Can Rosen make enough plays through the air to make the Cardinal defense more vulnerable in the run game?
The answer is probably not. While Rosen should make some plays through the air because of his talent, Stanford’s defense will be able to hold and stop the run, which will make UCLA one-dimensional. Also, expect McCaffrey to have another big day against the UCLA defense. Stanford wins and covers in this one.
Final Stanford 35, UCLA 28
Arkansas vs. Texas A&M
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST
Location: AT&T Stadium
Line: Texas A&M -5.5
This will be an exciting game in the SEC West. The winner will be the team most likely to challenge Alabama this season for a spot in the SEC Championship game.
The game will also be played at AT&T Stadium. Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones is a big Razorback fan, so we know which team he will be pulling for.
Texas A&M has played great so far on both sides of the ball. We knew the Aggies would be able to put points on the board. Trevor Knight has been a nice addition to the A&M offense this year. He has thrown for five touchdowns through three games so far.
What is even more impressive is the way the Aggies defense has played. Defensive coordinator John Chavis has improved the defense in almost every statistical category this year. The biggest jump has been in points allowed. Last year the Aggies allowed 28.1 points a game. So far this year they only have allowed 13.1, which puts them in the Top 20 in that category.
The A&M defense will have a tough challenge as Arkansas is a ground and pound team that also has a solid quarterback in Austin Allen.
Allen has had back-to-back good games. Two weeks ago he threw for three touchdown passes in a close win over TCU. Last week he followed it up with another solid game by tossing two touchdown passes. Allen did not throw a pick in either contest, which will be essential Saturday night. Texas A&M has forced five turnovers to start this season, so look for them to be aggressive in the secondary.
A&M will be ready to play in this one. The defense has already been challenged early this season. If they can stop the run they will win the game. Arkansas should be able to get some big runs, but in the end it won’t be enough. The Aggie defense is better than it’s been in years past. Take Texas A&M and the points in this one.
Texas A&M 39, Arkansas 31